Law Enforcement

  • CanadaCanada considering expanding powers of its security agencies

    The Harper government is considering legislation which would expand the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to investigate, apprehend, and detain homegrown terrorists. CSIS wants the power to take advantage of the so-called “Five Eyes” spy network to which Canada, the United Kingdom, America, Australia, and New Zealand all belong. CSIS is also asking for more power to track Canadians believed to have been radicalized, and to take more advantage of anonymous sources. Ottawa officials are talking about whether to give CSIS explicit legislative permission to engage in “threat-diminishment” — a power which the intelligence agency’s watchdog recently pointed out that CSIS already uses, but the law does not explicitly permit.

  • GunsBullet-tracing technology helps nab criminals

    Firing a gun leaves a unique carving on each bullet, what some police officers refer to as the gun’s DNA. The Minneapolis Police Department(MPD) has upgraded its bullet-tracing technology, or integrated ballistic identification solution (IBIS), quickly to match bullets to different crimes around the city, and soon around the country. The National Integrated Ballistic Information Network(NIBIN) is a national database of bullets and shell castings that shares information on the markings left on a bullet after it passes through a gun’s chamber.

  • CybersecurityFBI wants Congress to mandate backdoors in tech devices to facilitate surveillance

    In response to announcements by Appleand Googlethat they would make the data customers store on their smartphones and computers more secure and safer from hacking by law enforcement, spies, and identity thieves, FBI director James Comey is asking Congress to order tech companies to build their devices with “backdoors,” making them more accessible to law enforcement agencies.Privacy advocates predict that few in Congress will support Comey’s quest for greater surveillance powers.

  • SurveillanceGrowing scrutiny of police use of Stingray surveillance technology

    IMSI-catcher (International Mobile Subscriber Identity), aka Stingray, is a surveillance technology which simulates cell phone towers in order to intercept mobile phone calls and text messages. Privacy advocates have scrutinized the use of Stingrays in U.S. cities because, when the device tracks a suspect’s cell phone, it also gathers information about the phones of bystanders within the target range. Additionally, police use Stingrays without properly identifying the technology when requesting search warrants has raised concerns.

  • Public safety networkPublic safety network failed to involve important constituencies in development phase

    A few months after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress established the First Responder Network Authority(FirstNet), an agency tasked with creating a nationwide wireless broadband network for public safety and emergency response officials. Currently, the nation’s 5.4 million first responders rely on commercial carriers to communicate and share critical information during emergencies. Analysts say that a failure to incorporate the public safety sector into the development phase of FirstNet set the new agency on a wrong path since its early days. The failure by FirstNet to involve its most important constituency — emergency responders, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), firefighters, and police officers – raises questions about the likely effectiveness of the network.

  • TerrorismMinnesota law enforcement helps Somali community fight radicalization, terror recruiting

    For years, Minnesota’s Somali community has been battling the recruitment of young men and women into militant groups like al-Shabaab and the Islamic State (ISIS). Several community and religious leaders have helped form youth groups and held public discussions about the radicalization of Somalis in America. Law enforcement agencies are also playing their part. Andy Luger, U.S. Attorney for the District of Minnesota, is working with members of the local Somali community to better understand its concerns and how to help the community fight extremism.

  • ImmigrationLos Angeles County to cooperate with ICE on detaining undocumented immigrants

    The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisorsvoted Tuesday to extend 287(g), a program which allows federal immigration agents to train county jail employees to investigate whether certain inmates convicted of serious crimes are in the country illegally. Inmates confirmed as undocumented immigrants are then transferred to Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) detention centers after serving their sentence.Aroud the country, at least 225 law enforcement agencies have decided to refuse hold requests from ICE.

  • ImmigrationMore law enforcement agencies refuse to hold undocumented inmates for ICE

    Recent court rulings have emboldened roughly 225 law enforcement agencies across the country to refuse requests from Immigration and Customs Enforcement(ICE) officials to hold undocumented inmates past their release dates so federal authorities can have time to deport them. Until recently, inmates suspected of being in the country illegally were held for an additional forty-eight hours until ICE agents arrived. Some municipalities began limiting the number of holds a few years ago, but several counties and cities have begun to ignore the requests all together after recent court rulings confirmed that the immigration holds are not mandatory.

  • ForensicsNanoparticles will allow detecting previously undetectable fingermarks

    A group of researchers from Switzerland has thrown light on the precise mechanisms responsible for the impressive ability of nanoparticles to detect fingermarks left at crime scenes. The researchers have provided evidence contesting the commonly accepted theory that nanoparticles are attracted to fingermarks electrostatically. The attraction, they claim, is in fact chemical and is caused by compounds on the surface of nanoparticles bonding with a complex cocktail of compounds present in fingermark residue.

  • CrimeExperts urge caution in relying upon eyewitness identifications in criminal cases

    A new report from the National Research Council recommends best practices that law enforcement agencies and courts should follow to improve the likelihood that eyewitness identifications used in criminal cases will be accurate. Science has provided an increasingly clear picture of the inherent limits in human visual perception and memory that can lead to errors, as well as the ways unintentional cues during law enforcement processes can compromise eyewitness identifications, the report says.

  • ImmigrationIn U.S. criminal courts, non-citizens face harsher sentencing than citizens

    Non-Americans in the U.S. federal court system are more likely to be sentenced to prison and for longer terms compared to U.S. citizens, according to a new study. The researchers analyzed U.S. federal district court data from 1992 to 2008 for this study. In 2008, for example, 96 percent of convicted non-citizens received a prison sentence, compared to 85 percent of U.S. citizens. The researchers said that the issue of punishment disparities between citizens and non-citizens is a growing concern as the number of non-citizens in the United States — estimated at more than twenty-two million — continues to grow.

  • Law enforcementLaw enforcement agencies use technology to compensate for shrinking budgets

    With funding shrinking in many sectors of law enforcement, agencies are searching for new ways to operate affordably while maintaining quality standards.Police departments’ budgets quadrupled between 1982 and 2006. With federal budgets shrining, there are simply too many challenges which would not allow for police budgeting-as-usual.

  • ForensicsInvestigative genetics technology helps nab criminals

    Every year, investigators collect tens of thousands of biological samples from crime scenes that may hold valuable clues to solving criminal cases. Unlocking those clues now is easier thanks to a new software solution unveiled last week by Battelle researchers who have applied advanced bioinformatics to next-generation sequencing data. ExactID analyzes biomarkers that can predict physical appearance, ancestry, clinical traits, and familial relationships among people. This information can be invaluable to forensic analyses and case work.

  • TerrorismNew DOJ pilot program aims to deter Americans from joining terrorist groups

    Boston, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis will host the Justice Department’s (DOJ) pilot program aimed at deterring Americans from joining terrorists groups, particularly those fighting in Syria and Iraq under the Islamic State (IS) and Somalia under al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. The program will rely on prevention and intervention initiatives.

  • Predictive policingMore police departments adopt predictive policing

    More police departments have adopted data analytics as a way to combat urban crime. Supporters of the approach, also referred to as predictive policing, say that if it is used in conjunction with existing policing techniques, such as community policing, it could have a drastic impact on crime. Some note, however, that the predictive policing methodology is more useful for its general tactical utility rather than the accuracy of its predictions.